I don't know about you, but when I see ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) announce each year the number of new housing units some cities in the Bay Area need to provide to help balance the unbalanced jobs-housing ratio, I get upset. This week ABAG's executive board said that Palo Alto must provide an estimated 10,058 new housing units between 2023 and 2031. This town is 98 percent filled, and we have a population of about 65,000 people, so where will we put them? That's your problem, ABAG says. Mountain View, which is a larger city, has a housing quota of 11,381 for those eight years; Menlo Park's quota is 3,075 new homes; Los Altos gets away with 2,267.
I get angry because the whole set-up seems unfair to me. Palo Alto has more jobs within its boundaries (Stanford University, Stanford Hospital, Stanford Research Park, and Palintir, until recently). Menlo Park has fewer jobs (even with Facebook's expanding presence). Mountain View has Google, which is becoming a giant operation. More jobs means a city has to provide more housing, ABAG and the state declare, even though many of these companies, like Stanford Hospital, provide regional services.
I understand that these state housing demands are there to accommodate present and future workers, and the idea is to plan ahead. The state's Department of Housing and Community Development is telling the Bay Area to plan for 441,176 new housing units -- substantially up from the 187,000 they said were required from 2015 to 2023, according to ABAG. But that's why places like Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside, cities that have no major corporations, get few if any housing demands placed on them, although they have a lot of acreage.
ABAG is allocating 16 percent of the Bay Area quota to San Francisco, 11 percent to San Mateo County and 33 percent to Santa Clara County. Is that fair?
The 35-member ABAG executive committee is not elected. Cities appoint their own city council representatives to ABAG. Nevertheless, ABAG has previously stated its members are "elected." That's a stretch, I think. We can't vote them out if we don't like their decisions.
Nine Bay Area counties are under ABAG's jurisdiction -- some 100 cities. So with only a 35-member executive committee, which includes county supervisors among its appointees, cities have to take their "turn" to serve on the committee and have any influence.
Not every city has a representative -- this year only Mountain View has one. Los Altos, Palo Alto and Menlo Park have no representatives and no alternates. I often wonder if that's why so many housing demands are placed on Palo Alto.
I also suspect NIMBYism may be a factor in determining which cities should provide more housing. I mean if I were living in, say, Moraga, I certainly would vote that Palo Alto and Mountain View should be required to boost up their housing. People are people, and people want their own self-interests preserved.
But things happen, like the coronavirus. And more people are working at home and commuting less, and more people are moving away from California because of the dry weather conditions and increasing number of fires this state is experiencing. COVID 19 has resulted in things changing so fast around the world that we all don't know what to expect or how to plan for the future.
I understand the need for more housing, but I don't want things forced on me/us. I think we will try hard, but not intentionally overcrowd our communities for our children and grandchildren.
And a P.S. on another topic: Hooray for the Palo Alto City Council members! They rose to the occasion when they quickly decided to amend some critical parts of the staff-written proposed guidelines for board and commission members in this city. Instead of a proposed rule that interviews with the press "should generally be avoided," the council said commissioners can talk to the press if they clearly identify they are speaking for themselves and not their entire commission, and the council said members cannot be dismissed from their posts without any cause. The city council listened to the public and made these appropriate changes.